The Missing Link in Comparison Shopping

This week, I’ve been doing some extensive research around these little things called comparison-shopper sites. They are popping up everywhere, and some with cute little names like mySimon, StoreRunner, and DealTime. Yesterday, I even saw one of them giving away a Humvee.

But how do these little shoppers help you and I? I’ll tell you. As a consumer, you can punch in their URLs and jump directly to their shopper sites. Then if you’re looking for a classic Bruce Springsteen album or the new controversial Eminem album, for instance, simply type in “Springsteen” or “Eminem,” and it will pull up all of their albums.

Not only will it find them, but it will display for you the best prices offered by as many as 15 retailers. With a few instant clicks, Bruce can be in the mail, en route to your house, without your having to type in all 15 URLs to comparison shop. Hey, this saves us both time and money.

So, as I research for the Fortune 1000 client that hired me, I realize that I’m finding its name is nowhere to be seen, and, yet, it is leading the industry in its own market. Hmm…

I began to think of what it takes to make up a comparison-shopper site and how exactly these sites make their money. Suddenly, it hits me: affiliate programs!

Someone went around and made affiliations with all the many, many sites out there that were offering a program. These folks basically built a site and offered a price-comparison feature that you as a cost-saving consumer could come to and compare prices.

The consumers, in turn, buy the best deal out there, and these comparison-shopper sites pull in a “referral” fee of up to 15 percent for making the connection happen. That’s it. It’s sort of like “Miracle on 54th Street” except in this scenario, Macy’s doesn’t stand to lose a dime. After all, Macy’s is the mySimon. They are basically getting paid to make the link while never selling a single thing. No inventory, no product manager, nothing.

So back to my client. Currently, it still isn’t being represented in any of these comparison-shopper sites because it doesn’t offer an affiliate program. So as some companies are building these new comparison sites and are essentially begging to sell for e-commerce sites, many other companies are missing the whole boat by not offering an affiliate program. In fact, in some cases, with these major Fortune 1000 e-commerce sites, they are missing the whole lake.

The last item of concern is, of course, having a good pricing strategy. It obviously wouldn’t do you any good if your company was represented as the most expensive every time you ran a comparison. When it comes to the Internet, people want ease of purchase.

So if you’re interested in being a part of the comparison-shopping revolution, remember that you need to incite the mySimons of the world as well. And the easiest way to do just that is with an affiliate program. Don’t underestimate its value.

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